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The cover of Jan Rüger’s Heligoland shows a small, forbidding and desolate rock surrounded by inclement seas and with no sign of human habitation. This unwelcoming glimpse of land from afar – as so often the case with islands – will prove to be misleading. It gives no sense of the history on a grand scale that is to come.
The social history of the navy is a rapidly developing field and there is a recent trend for studies which seek to uncover the complex and varied personal experiences of officers and sailors, as well as to trace broader trends in cultural representation.
Martial law does not have a good reputation. William Blackstone set the tone of modern attitudes in the 18th century. Martial law is ‘built upon no settled principles ... entirely arbitrary in its decisions ... no law, but something indulged, rather than allowed as a law’ (quoted at p. 251).
This book focuses on the records of the Privy Wardrobe, a department of state that was responsible for supplying the king with arms and armour in the Middle Ages. The accounts of the keepers of the Privy Wardrobe survive from the 1320s to the early 15th century and contain a wealth of information about arms, armour and other items in their possession.
Why would a hardened band of foreign jihādi warriors agree to work for a self-proclaimed leader of the Christian world – especially one militantly opposed to Islam, who kept his own Muslim citizens under close surveillance? And why would such a ruler choose to keep that particular type of professional killer in his personal employ?
Despite the back cover declaring Lloyd Gardner’s The War on Leakers ‘the essential backstory to understand the Snowden case, NSA eavesdropping, and the future of privacy’, and its subtitle promising a study ‘from Eugene V. Debs to Edward Snowden,’ it would be inaccurate to describe this book as a historical work.
Padraig Lenihan, The Last Cavalier: Richard Talbot (1631-91), Dublin, UCD Press, 2014, 268 pages, €40, ISBN 9781906359836.
In 1850 Abraham Lincoln’s most celebrated rival, Stephen Douglas of Illinois, delivered an impassioned speech in the United States Senate.
One of the most memorable and unsettling works of historical fiction to appear in the last 15 years is Louis de Bernières’ Birds without Wings, which tells the stories of the inhabitants of Eskibahçe, a fictional village in the Ottoman Empire, in the years before, during and after the First World War.
Embracing Defeat is a richly researched, beautifully illustrated and elegantly written account of the period of the US-led occupation of Japan from 1945–52, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the US National Book Award, among others. Throughout the book John Dower’s writing is elegant, informative and easy to follow.